PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A life-long Coleraine fan who became disorderly after police took a pint glass from him outside the ground of derby rivals Ballymena United has avoided getting a Football Banning Order and is now on course to see his heroes in the Irish Cup Final.
The main weekly sitting of Ballymena Magistrates Court heard Robert John Archibald (31), is a staunch supporter of the Bannsiders although he lives at Hill Street in Ballymena.
The defendant pleaded guilty to the one charge of disorderly behaviour he faced after an incident at Warden Street in Ballymena ahead of Coleraine’s 2-0 league victory on March 10 this year.
A prosecuting lawyer said Archibald arrived outside the Ballymena Showgrounds clutching a pint glass in his hand which contained alcohol and he was shouting ‘ColeraineFC’ chants.
When police removed the glass he “became aggressive and argumentative” and was verbally abusive to officers.
When security then refused him admission to the ground Archibald shouted and swore in the presence of families. He protested to police: “I didn’t do anything”.
The prosecutor said police were seeking a Football Banning Order saying the defendant had previous matters and the legislation covered going to and from matches.
Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said his client had spent the build-up to the match with Ballymena and Coleraine fans and said a Football Banning Order would be “somewhat harsh” as the disorderly behaviour was outside the ground and had not involved assaults or taunting rival supporters.
The lawyer said the defendant apologised and realised he had to “cut down on drink” and he hoped to be able to attend the upcoming highlight of the Irish League calendar – the Irish Cup Final – which this year involves Archibald’s team Coleraine against Cliftonville.
District Judge Peter King said although the defendant had convictions including disorderly behaviour he was not going to issue a Banning Order.
The judge said the football authorities in Northern Ireland had undertaken “very significant work” to ensure matches are family-friendly.
Handing down a three months jail term, suspended for a year, he told Archibald: “Enjoy the Cup Final – don’t behave in this way again”.